"Relating to open ocean aquaculture in the federal exclusive economic zone. "
"It is essential that the Council, which generally has so well managed Alaska's federal fisheries, be a part of any discussion of OOA proposals."
- Rep. Thomas
Open Ocean Aquaculture (OOA) is a concept that concerns many Americans who are involved in the seafood business and whose communities depend on the economic strength of the commercial fishing industry. This new method of seafood production has been under development for a number of years, and there is pending federal legislation drafted by the Department of Commerce that would establish a program allowing OOA in federal waters.
In response to many environmental, economic and social concerns, Alaska enacted legislation in 1990 that prohibits finfish farming in state waters. This prohibition has enabled the Alaska fishing industry to differentiate itself in the global seafood market. Our name is associated with natural, healthy and safe seafood that has inherent quality because it is not artificially raised with antibiotics, artificial coloring and industrial fish food. Alaska's relative market share of seafood has diminished with the massive increases in farmed fish production, but our products have excellent name recognition and often occupy high value niches in the market. Our commitment to wild fisheries is beginning to pay dividends to our industry and the state, as some prices that dipped to severely low levels are showing strong signs of recovery.
HJR 15 recognizes that the Alaska Legislature is committed to ensuring the biological and economic health of our fisheries and the social and economic well-being of our communities. It requests that the U.S. Congress require any federal proposal to authorize OOA to undergo a legislative environmental impact statement. It also asks that the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council be involved in any proposals regarding OOA. This is critical in that the Council was established to regulate the fisheries of the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea. It is essential that the Council, which generally has so well managed Alaska's federal fisheries, be a part of any discussion of OOA proposals.